Isn't it funny that you don't realize how good you feel until you stop feeling good? I mean, we don't often walk around thinking about how great our teeth feel, right? But once we get a toothache, it's next to impossible to forget the pain. We long for the sweet relief of getting back to baseline!
This is me with headaches. I'm lucky in that I don't get headaches often. When I do get them, though, they're doozies. I'm willing to do anything to feel normal again...because I realize normal feels good!
Those with frequent headaches may rely on over-the-counter pain medications to ease their symptoms. I'm not a big fan of taking ibuprofen or other NSAIDs, as regular use has been shown to contribute to intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and intestinal bleeding - this is a fancy way of saying they're bad for your gut, and can lead to larger health problems.
Instead, I look to other ways to nip headaches in the bud so they don't ruin my day. Today I'll share with you my 3 favorite ways to kill a headache in hopes that you can put them to good use the next time you feel one arise!
But first - it's important to try and figure out WHY you're getting headaches to begin with. While headaches may be commonplace, that doesn't mean they are normal. They don't just come from nowhere. My suggestions may ease the symptoms of an existing headache, but it's still necessary to get to the root of the issue so you can keep them from happening in the first place. Be sure you read last week's post on some common headache causes and triggers.
Natural Remedies for Headache Relief
This is usually the first place I start. I genuinely find these to be far more effective than over the counter pain relievers. I always have the following oils on hand - I'll use any combination to ward off headaches.
Peppermint: I put this in the diffuser to fill the room with the scent. I also apply it to my temples. Those with sensitive skin should dilute the oil (mix with a carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil) before applying directly to skin.
PanAway: This is one of my favorite blends. It's a combination of Wintergreen, Helichrysum, Clove, and Peppermint and works really well for muscle tension and headaches. I mix with a carrier oil and rub it on my shoulders, neck, and other tense spots. Or I will just place a drop in my hands and inhale it.
Both peppermint and PanAway can be stimulating oils. This is great for when you have to be on point - at work, before a presentation, at home with kids, while exercising - but not so great when you're trying to unwind. So if a headache is coming at you in the evening hours, a calming oil like the following may be more appropriate.
Lavender: I use this oil often, and find it super helpful for headache and tension relief, as well as sleep. I diffuse it, rub it on my temples, wrists and the soles of my feet. During the day I will combine lavender and peppermint in the diffuser and let that run most of the day.
Valor: This blend of Black Spruce, Blue Tansy, Rosewood, and Frankincense is both calming and grounding. For headaches, I rub a little along my hairline. Before bed, I rub a little on my jawline - I have found this to be extremely effective in reducing teeth clenching and grinding (something that causes headaches).
R.C.: If you're struggling with a sinus headache, this is the oil to have. We've had more than our fair share of colds this year and R.C. has been our saving grace. I diffuse it during the day downstairs, I diffuse it in the kiddo's room at night, and I rub on my chest with a carrier oil before bed.
Interested in Essential Oils? Visit my friends over at Daring Spirits. They'll hook you up!
Pranayama / Breathing Exercises
As soon as I feel a headache emerge, I grab one of the above oils, then do one of the following breath exercises:
- Breath retention: Bring your hands to your low belly. Take a full, deep breath in - breathe all the way down into your belly, so you feel your hands expand. Take a slight pause at the top of the inhale to retain the breath in. Slowly release all of the breath out, using the low belly to fully press the air out. Pause at the bottom of the exhale to retain the breath out. Repeat this 5-10 more times.[separator]
- Alternate nostril breathing: This one takes a little more coordination. Here is a short video tutorial for you.
If I happen to be at home when a headache comes on (or have a few extra minutes and some space), I'll do the following yoga poses.
From all fours, settle your hips back toward your heels. Knees can be wide apart with your big toes touching, or close together. Do whatever feels the most comfortable in your body. Relax your forehead down to the floor. Relax your arms down by your sides, and allow the shoulders to drape forward. If your head doesn't comfortable connect to the floor, stack your palms and rest your forehead on your hands instead. Or, use a yoga block to rest your head. Take 5-8 deep breaths.
From all fours, walk your hands forward, tuck your toes and lift your hips, creating an inverted V with your body. Hands should be shoulder-width apart and feet hip-width. Bring a generous bend to your knees, reach your hips up and back, bringing length into your entire spine. Completely relax your neck and let your head hang heavy. Breath here for as long as comfortable.
Wide Legged Forward Fold
Step your feet wide apart, and come into an easy forward fold. Engage your thighs and hug the inner thighs in toward one another to protect the low back. If it feels more comfortable to tent your fingers tips on the floor in front of you, or bring hands to blocks, do that. I like to grab opposite elbows and let my whole upper body drape down. Remember to keep the legs engaged the entire time. Breath deeply for 5-8 breaths.
Legs Up the Wall
Laying on the floor, scoot your bum all the way up against a wall (it can be helpful to sit with one side of your body against a wall, then spin yourself around and lay down). Extend your legs to straight and rest the backs of ankles and legs on the wall. You can also do this in your living room, with legs up the couch, or before going to sleep on your bed, with legs up the headboard. Stay here for 5-15 minutes.
So there you have it!
Between the oils, the breath and the yoga, I am able to kick a headache 100% of the time. Remember that if you get frequent headaches, it is really super important to figure out the root cause. Read my post about that here.
I've had great feedback from Fueled+Fit participants reducing their headaches AND their need for OTC pain meds while on the program. Sign up for the next round! Check it out here.
I hope this helps you find some headache relief!